"Death by Minivan": Navigating the wild journey of motherhood and holiness

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Heather Anderson Renshaw brings readers along with her on the sanctifying adventure of motherhood in Death by Minivan (Our Sunday Visitor 2018). Despite the challenges and frustrations of continually hauling her kids around in the minivan, she describes her realization that she needs to “walk by the Spirit” and let her life reflect God’s love. In succinct chapters that are packed with personal reflections, Scripture, and advice from the saints, Renshaw dives into the Fruits of the Spirit (as laid out in Gal 5:22-23), and discusses how Catholic moms can practically live these out.

Death by Minivan includes lots of subheadings and short sections that make it easy for a busy mom to pick up for a quick spiritual boost as she waits in the pickup line as her kids leave school, takes a break between loads of laundry, or decompresses at the end of a long day. Yet, just because the format of this book makes ideal for short reading sessions does not mean that the content is overly simplistic. Instead, Renshaw’s stories and insights draw from Scripture and Catholic teaching, and they are both inspiring and challenging.

Renshaw challenges those who read this book to change themselves — in a good way. She encourages moms to seek holiness. She challenges them to take care of themselves, incorporate prayer into each day, seek counseling if they need it, and cultivate a sense of humor. She openly and honestly talks about her own struggles as a mother, and how God is helping her to become a holier woman. She discusses common “roadblocks” to sanctity, and presents ideas for overcoming these. I was particularly struck by her discussion of the “Martyr Mom.” Renshaw argues that we need to reclaim the title of “martyr,” and how we can strive to become a joyful witness to God’s love.

Each chapter includes a section called “Roadside Assistance,” which lists quotations from canonized saints or other holy people. I enjoyed reading these reflections from so many wise people, including Julian of Norwich, St. Vincent de Paul, and St. Francis de Sales. However, I was disappointed that these quotations were not accompanied with the specific book, sermon, letter, or other place where they were originally found. I would love to read more by some of these saints, so I would have liked seeing a resource list with the inspirational quotations so that I could use that when adding to my reading list.

Death by Minivan was a joy to read. I loved getting a peek into another mother’s life, and appreciate how Renshaw brings a humorous angle to so many of her stories. I enjoyed reflecting on the Fruits of the Spirit, and I’m excited to implement some of Renshaw’s practical ideas in my own life. Whether you read this book all by yourself or with other moms in a group, Renshaw’s experiences and thoughts can provide wonderful assistance as we all navigate this wild journey of motherhood and holiness.

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Copyright 2019 AnneMarie Miller

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About Author

Eagerly seeking new adventures each day, AnneMarie enjoys life in Oklahoma with her husband and little boy. She has a passion for the Faith and particularly loves learning more about the Liturgy, saints, and various devotions. AnneMarie’s musings on Catholicism, literature, and motherhood can be found on her blog, Sacrifice of Love.

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